By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A new Ohio law that allows people to carry concealed weapons might give some soon-to-be-armed individuals a greater sense of security - but it's creating headaches for many employers.
John Brindle, owner of Cincinnati Motor Car Inc. on Madison Road - and of a Walther PP 7.65mm pistol - says he will allow concealed weapons at his repair shop.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/ERNEST COLEMAN
The measure, which goes into effect Thursday, already has forced hundreds if not thousands of Ohio companies to remove or rewrite rules that prohibit or regulate weaponry in the workplace.
"Every client who has called - and that's several dozen - every one wants to know how to bar weapons from their workplace," said Jackie Ford, a partner at the law firm Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease.
"We have yet to hear from a client who says, 'How can I have concealed weapons in the workplace? Please, that would be great.'
"This is legislation that has been written on a napkin."
The law allows concealed weapons to be brought into every workplace - except government buildings, day-care centers, airports and bars - unless employers notify visitors and employees at the entrance that a weapons ban is in place.
Sponsored by state Rep. Jim Aslanides, a Republican from Coshocton, the law allows sheriffs to issue gun permits. Among the requirements, Ohioans must not be felons and they must complete a criminal background check and a safety-training course and pass a test.
Last month, Procter & Gamble Co. sent an e-mail to all its employees to notify them that the concealed handgun law was signed into law and would go into effect April 8.
The company's workplace violence prevention policy prohibits workers or visitors from bringing weaponry onto P&G property.
That policy will not change.
"We reminded our employees of the longstanding principle we have of maintaining a safe and healthy environment for individuals," P&G spokesman Terry Loftus said.
The company will not post signs about weaponry. Instead, P&G will post on visitor cards and sign-in sheets the policy against concealed handguns on company property.
Loth MBI Inc., which provides workplace solutions and sells office furniture and accessories at its Sharonville headquarters, will ban weapons at the facility and prohibit employees from taking them to clients' workplaces.
"We intend to post signs - probably in the employee lounge and on the doors at employee entrances," said Joe Elfers, chief financial officer for Loth MBI, which employs 110.
That is likely to be the approach, too, at Clark DD-A, a Sharonville-based distributor of industrial engines and transmissions.
"It has long been our company policy to prohibit handguns, and that's not going to change," said George Wunderlich, customer support manager.
Executives at Clark DD-A are debating how to notify visitors of the ban. "We will probably post a sign," Wunderlich said. "That's probably the only way to advise first-time customers."
A workplace safety policy is in place at SS&G Financial Services, which employs 25 people at the Montgomery office, and it bans concealed weapons in the workplace, said Rebecca Osborne, director of human resources for the public accounting firm.
The office has not yet decided whether the ban will be posted to alert visitors.
And at Terry Lee Chevrolet in the Kings Auto Mall in Deerfield Township, general manager Mel Lehrner said a handbook for the 85 employees has been amended to reflect the new law and the old policy against handguns.
"We will post on our doors that we don't want people in our establishment who are concealing and carrying weapons," Lehrner said. "We want to protect our employees and customers. If (customers) have a gun, they can leave it out in their car."
Sense of security
Among the workplace implications for the Ohio law:
Employers will decide whether they want guns on their premises and whether they want someone who brings a gun onto their property to face criminal liability.
Employers who operate company parking areas will have to decide whether to allow employees to have guns in their cars.
Retailers and others whose businesses are open to the public may have to post signs if they do not want armed individuals on site.
Employers may have to negotiate with unions regarding any changes to current policies.
Employers have immunity for injuries caused by an individual who brings a licensed handgun onto property unless the employer acted with "malicious purpose" in the incident.
One workplace that is not going to post signs or notices banning weapons is Madisonville-based Cincinnati Motor Car, which specializes in repairing cars made by BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
"I think the law will reduce the crime rate," said John Brindle, 56, who owns Cincinnati Motor Car.
"Crimes of opportunity may be reduced. The perpetrators might have to think twice. There will be less crime when people have second thoughts."
On a personal note, Brindle said, he will feel safer walking his Alaskan Malamute, Misby, at night in his Hartwell neighborhood. He and his dog were attacked in 2001 by a loose pit bull named Sweet Pea, which he could have shot had he been allowed to carry a gun.
"You talk about feeling defenseless. It almost killed my dog - and I have a very big dog," he said. "I had my hands in the pit bull's mouth that night. That's not a very safe feeling."
Handguns at Cincinnati Motor Car are out of sight but commonplace, said Brindle's wife, Sharon, the company's office manager.
In fact, the Brindles worry about legalities if they decided to ban weapons from workers, customers or visitors.
"If a person had to leave his gun in a car and is harmed because of that, wouldn't he have a great lawsuit?" she said. "I'd think the shop owner would be wide open to litigation."
While the Ohio measure goes into effect Thursday, Kentucky passed a law in 1996 that offered permits for residents to carry concealed weapons.
Brian Hendricks, 32, of Campbell County, does not own a weapon, but he doesn't worry about others carrying weapons to work.
He is a drywall installer and says that as long as there is a Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he would not be surprised if people around him at work were armed.
"Every American has the right to protect himself," Hendricks said.
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